May 20, 2014 (JUBA/OSLO) – South Sudan’s government has welcomed international pledges of more than $600 million in aid at a conference in Oslo, Norway, aimed at averting a looming famine threatening millions of people.
“This figure represents nearly a doubling of the funds made available to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. It is significant and it will save lives,” said Norwegian foreign minister Boerge Brende.
The United States, UK, European Union and Norway contributed 65 per cent of the total pledges.
In an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday, South Sudanese interior minister Aleu Ayeny Aleu thanked the Norwegian government for its organisation of the international donor conference, saying it demonstrated the special ties that existed between the two countries.
“Norway, as you know, is one of the few countries which stood with our people during the dark days and had continued to show it cannot abandon us. It is a demonstration of a true friend, who always ensures to extend such a fitting assistance,” he said.
The funding pledges will go towards supporting humanitarian activities and operations in the country, which was engulfed by violence in mid-December last year following escalating political tensions within the ruling SPLM party.
The United Nations has also expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the conference, saying pledges had “surpassed” expectations.
The UN had described the donor conference as the “last chance to prevent famine”.
Tuesday’s pledges brings the total available funds for South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis to $1.2 billion, still short of the $1.8 billion UN agencies say is required to meet urgent needs.
However, UN humanitarian affairs coordinator Valerie Amos acknowledged it could be difficult to raise the additional resources required, given the massive humanitarian crises around the world, citing Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) as examples.
The UN has warned that four million people in the young, war-ravaged nation are at risk of starvation.
- Delegates from over 50 countries gathered in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, for an international donor conference on 19 May 2014 (ST)
At least 50 countries and an equal number of non-government organisations sent representatives to Oslo.
Pledges were received from 25 countries, including neighbouring Sudan who will provide 10,000 tonnes of sorghum.
The US, which pledged $290 million, was the largest contributor, with the EU pledging $191 million, Norway $63 million, the UK $100 million and Switzerland 27 million.
The conflict in South Sudan has pitted government forces loyal to president Salva Kiir against rebels aligned with former vice-president Riek Machar, who was sacked last July, reigniting ethnic tensions across the country.
Donor countries have called on the country’s warring parties to reach a peaceful settlement to hostilities, which have continued despite the signing of a renewed ceasefire agreement on 9 May in Ethiopia.
More than 1.3 million people have been displaced by violence in the country, with many living in extremely cramped and precarious conditions inside UN compounds.
- UN humanitarian coordinator Valerie Amos (L) and Norwegian foreign affairs minister Borge Brende speak to the press following an international donor conference in Oslo on 20 May 2014, aimed at boosting support for humanitarian efforts in South Sudan (ST)
Hundreds of thousands of people have also fled to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda, placing an enormous strain on already fragile humanitarian resources in the region.
The conflict has severely disrupted livelihoods and seasonal crop plantings, with many people resorting to eating wild foods such as bulbs and grasses to survive.
Aid agencies have warned that the situation will become increasingly critical with the imminent arrival of the rainy season, which will render the few existing roads and some landing strips unusable, complicating the distribution of aid to vast areas of the country.
“Aid is extremely urgent because we know that 3.7 million people are facing a food crisis and emergency today. We know that the prospect is that it will escalate to 4 million people by August. We have to reach these people because otherwise, we are going to see people dying of starvation,” said deputy director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Elisabeth Rasmusson.
The UN children’s agency (UNICEF) has also warned that at least 50,000 children are at risk of dying of malnutrition by the end of the year.